Zeitgeist is a Creative Ecosystem. Zeitgeist exists at the intersection of writing, visuals, discourse, technology, disruption, scarcity and ingenuity.
In nature, “An ecosystem is a geographic area where plants, animals, and other organisms, as well as weather and landscapes, work together to form a bubble of life.” – National Geographic.
Informed by the natural world and adapted for the African context; Zeitgeist is a digital landscape where content creators, service providers, advertisers, and facilitators work together to give life to Creative Expression.
Creative Expression is as diverse in form as it is in content. Poetry, short stories, music, cuisine, tweets, threads, audio may speak to our history, philosophy, political outlook, socio-economic context, joy and ratchetry.
Zeitgeist is guided by the following 7 principles of Ecosystem building.
1) Diffused ownership
2) Decentralized decision making
3) Common interest
4) Value as currency
5) Fluid roles and responsibilities
6) Emphasis on collaboration
7) African context
1) Diffused ownership
Zeitgeist is composed of affiliates, not subsidiaries. That is, entities within the ecosystem do not have to give up equity to participate. Consider, for example, the four Affiliates at present: CurateZim, CurateByo, Mumsie’s Kitchen & Brand Chronicles. Zeitgeist either has a minority stake, or none at all in each of these Affiliates.
For each of these Affiliates, their ownership within the Zeitgeist is not that of having shares but being contributors to the community. The ownership becomes diffused, communal.
2) Decentralized Decision making
I thought Bata was a Zimbabwean company. I thought the Weinbrenner and Toughies I wore throughout primary and secondary school were from a company whose headquarters are in Gweru, Zimbabwe.
I was wrong. But I wasn’t the only one who had this impression Bata was local. Consider this tweet which went viral
“So…. did anyone grow up with the only shoe store in town really being Bata shoes?
I always thought they were a Kenyan company… I learnt today my Indian friends always thought it was an Indian company… turns out the company started out in what is now the Czech Republic…”Tavneet Suri
Bata is a multinational footwear and fashion accessory manufacturer and retailer, founded in the Czech Republic now based in Lausanne, Switzerland.
The reason so many people (myself included) believe Bata is a local company is because they have a high level of decentralized decision making. Each country / region chooses which shoes to produce based on demand, which locations to be in based on the population, and even make adverts in local languages to connect with their target audience.
Zeitgeist is guided by this principle of decentralized decision making in its operations.
3) Common Interest
How would entities with diffused ownership and decentralized decision-making work together? The answer lies in common interest.
Zeitgeist is cognizant of the needs of artists. For a muse of inspiration; tools for content creation; a medium for distribution; an audience; a mechanism for constructive feedback, a channel for effusive praise, facilitation of financial reward and opportunity for collaboration.
The creative lifecycle guides all people and entities in how to benefit and contribute. One does not need awareness of the whole process to meaningfully participate. One simply needs to be aware of needs, their value proposition and potential reward in serving common interest.
4) Value as currency
It is a capitalist lie that the only way for sustainability is through monetization. An undue focus is therefore placed on Dollars, Rands, Pulas, Shillings, Bitcoin and fiat or digital currencies.
Exchange of value is a concept as old as humanity. Consider, for example, Kutema ugariri.
“ Kutema ugariri is an age old recognised and legitimate system of getting married among the Shona [people of Zimbabwe]. This is a system whereby the “to-be husband” worked for his “to-be wife” at her parents’ homestead for a certain period of time before he was given his wife. Such a form of marriage arrangement, as noted by Bourdillon, used to be the normal way in which most men got married, since cattle were scarce, but this has practically died out since most men are now able now to earn cash in wage employment.” [Scielo.org.za]
Within the Zeitgeist Ecosystem, the question changes from “How much should I pay?” to “what value is this to me”? The Statement may adapt from, “I charge X amount for this service” to “I have Y service I offer, and would like Z service in return.”
One value proposition Zeitgeist uses as currency has often received a bad reputation in creative circles: exposure. The majority of curators on CurateZim or CurateByo neither pay nor are paid to curate. Instead, people see this public platform as an opportunity to share their story, products, humour or insight with a large audience. Where one may generate 50 000 impressions on Twitter in 24 hours, exposure is not only an acceptable form of reward for potential curators, but a desirable one.
5) Fluid Roles and responsibilities
“A counter-intuitive approach: Build a product around the people (and skills) available, rather than formulating abstract roles and filling them with the best candidates.
More can be drawn from human capital if processes and systems are designed with people in mind.”– Valentine Writes
In contrast with normal capitalist practice, Zeitgeist promotes fluidity of roles and responsibilities. Doing so enables the ecosystem to tap into the unique set of talents people posses. Both the person AND the system should adapt in service of a mutually beneficial working relationship.
One example is “role description.” Two Administrators may have different roles in the Zeitgeist, based on their competencies. Doing so would increase each of their productivity… As well as that of the collective.
6) Emphasis on collaboration
Remember this on the definition of a natural Ecosystem, “An ecosystem…. where plants, animals, and other organisms…. work together to form a bubble of life.”
Collaboration is an indispensable element of Ecosystem building. Through synergy, the whole becomes bigger than the sum of its parts.
At Zeitgeist, we seek partnerships and collaboration with art creators, consumers and facilitators with a view to inspire, produce, find, nurture, promote and sustain authentic expression.
7) African Context
Why should the Zeitgeist exist? After all there is Patreon, Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube, Fiver, Amazon, Buy Me a Coffee and among many digital ecosystems.
For Zeitgeist, the key is to adapt pre-existing platforms to the African context where possible and generate novel solutions for uniquely African problems.
Consider, for example, how many online bookstores do not deliver to Africa. Or, how a Zimbabwean PayPal account can only make payments but cannot receive money. Consider the lower pay-out on Google Ads for African content creators per view compared to a European content creator. Consider internet penetration; the cost of data; as well as the type of mobile phones in Africa. Contrast with 5G technology being deployed on the latest iPhone.
Informed by lived experience and active listening, Zeitgeist is built with the African creative in mind.
Inspired by the natural world and adapted for the African context; Zeitgeist is a digital landscape where content creators, service providers, advertisers, and facilitators work together to give life to Creative Expression.
Zeitgeist is a Creative Ecosystem.